Jesus is constantly challenging the religious elites and leaders of His time here on earth. He still does today.
This time he took on the Scribes specifically.
Am I acting like a religious elite some days? I need to be careful. The charade is dangerous.
Jesus offers me a way out. That is some very good news. The way out is to be His disciple and to follow His commands. Jesus wants me to focus on love, not the law. My job today is to love God and everyone else I come in contact with. Love sets me free.
With everybody listening, Jesus spoke to his disciples. “Watch out for the religion scholars [scribes]. They love to walk around in academic gowns, preen in the radiance of public flattery, bask in prominent positions, sit at the head table at every church function. And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get. But they’ll pay for it in the end.” | Luke 20:45-47 (The Message Bible)
Scribes in ancient Israel were learned men whose business was to study the Law, transcribe it, and write commentaries on it. They were also hired on occasions when the need for a written document arose or when an interpretation of a legal point was needed. Ezra, “a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses,” was a scribe (Ezra 7:6).
The scribes went beyond interpretation of Scripture, however, and added many man-made traditions to what God had said. They became professionals at spelling out the letter of the Law while ignoring the spirit behind it. Things became so bad that the regulations and traditions the scribes added to the Law were considered more important than the Law itself. This led to many confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes.
At the beginning of the Jesus Manifesto, Jesus shocked His audience by declaring that the righteousness of the scribes was not enough to get anyone to heaven (Matthew 5:20). A large portion of Jesus’ sermon then dealt with what the people had been taught (by the scribes) and what God actually wanted (Matthew 5:21–48). Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, He thoroughly condemned the scribes for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23). They knew the Law, and they taught it to others, but they did not obey it.